A New Year Approach to Teach and Promote Healthy Eating to Children and Youth
Teachers are often looking for new and creative ways to bring health and nutrition into the curriculum or other school-related activities. The new year can be a great time to look at resources and ways of engaging students in learning about healthy eating. One particular resource to explore is the Cooking Club Manual for Children and Youth, available from the Alberta Health Services’ Healthy Eating Starts Here (HESH) website.
This manual, designed by AHS dietitians, focuses on how to operate an eight-week school or community based cooking club for kids. The clubs, often led by teachers (or community or parent volunteers), are for children ages eight to 12 years old and provide an experiential learning opportunity so children can learn about food preparation and cooking skills, healthy eating and food safety, and how to confidently choose and make nutritious foods. While designed to be completed as an after-school continuous eight-week program, the structure of the manual allows individual components to be used so it can also be adapted to a classroom setting.
The manual includes ready-to-go lesson plans, background information and worksheets for the classroom and the kitchen. Beyond the lesson plans, there are start-up instructions for leaders, including lists of all the kitchen equipment and tools needed to run the program, background information on food safety for leaders, links to varied sources of food safety information and the online School Food Safety course at: http://www.ahs.ca/eph/Page3151.aspx.
Additionally, the content supports the Alberta Education health and life skills curriculum; all recipes are aligned with the Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth. This integrated, experiential approach to learning also supports the new Alberta curriculum approach and is a great addition to any teacher’s toolbox of evidence-based materials and resources.
The manual highlights the eight-week schedule for completing the program from beginning to end, but can also be adapted:
- Choose only a few lessons or all eight;
- Use the individual lesson plans and activity worksheets, with or without the recipe preparation for classroom use, when hands-on cooking experiences may not be possible;
- Include the recipes in canteens, home economics classes, school lunch or snack programs, or after-school care programs;
- Use the entire manual as part of an after-school care program;
- Incorporate the cooking club course as a stand-alone program operated by the school, community or parent councils.
- Use the food safety section as a way to orientate volunteers or students in how to prepare school snacks/meals under the supervision of an adult who has completed the School Food Safety Course.
The nutrition lessons and learning activities include a range of topics such as: food safety, healthy eating for Canada’s Food Guide, journaling as a way to promote healthy choices, label reading facts, healthy snacking, alternatives to sugary drinks, eating together as a family, and eating local. At the end, there is a “celebration” lesson that encourages students to invite guests (parents/caregivers) to join them for a meal, so they can appreciate the new skills their children have developed.
Access the Cooking Club Manual for Children and Youth and many other credible resources created by AHS dietitians at the HESH website: http://www.ahs.ca/nutrition/Page9597.aspx.
If you have questions or have suggestions for further educational resources to promote healthy eating in the classroom, contact AHS Community Health at (403) 502-8200 and ask to speak with a public health dietitian or health promotion coordinator.
Submitted by: Marcia Stodalka